Olympians lose 59-55 to Thousand Oaks in Division II-AA final
Leuzinger’s first CIF finals appearance went well for the first three and a half quarters – then it went sour before they reached the finish line.
A 59-55 loss to Thousand Oaks was surprising given the Olympians forced 18 turnovers, but they only converted that into 10 points. Leuzinger head coach Reggie Morris Jr. said it was reminiscent of their Dec. 26 loss against Long Beach Poly at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, a game where they forced 30 turnovers but lost 67-64.
“We could have played a better game but a lot of that is due to the things they did,” Morris said, “They rebounded well and scored inside.”
Heading into the game, the Olympians (25-6) were the favorites based on their strength of schedule. They had been battle tested facing Westchester, Bishop Montgomery, Taft and Poly but were unable to use that to their advantage.
They held narrow leads at halftime (31-30) and the end of the third quarter (42-41) as they never led by more than four. The game-changing play came with 3:24 left as forward Jerry Evans fouled out with the score tied at 50.
With their go-to-guy on the bench, the Olympians’ offense became stagnant and it led to mistakes down the stretch. Clinging to a 53-51 lead with 2:31 left, they allowed the Lancers (27-2) to take a 6-0 run that culminated with senior guard Chris Carter hitting two free throws with a minute left to make it 57-53.
The Olympians made their final run with senior guard Donley Minor hit two free throws to cut the lead to 57-55 with 42 seconds left but on the ensuing possession, Minor turned the ball over. After Thousand Oaks junior forward Alex Tiffin converted the open lay-up with 11.8 seconds left, Olympians guard Julian Wheeler rushed a desperation three-point shot that missed and sealed their fate.
“I think some of the guys were cautious to a fault, Morris said, “Instead of letting it all out, we probably held on to it and were a bit too conservative at times.”
The Lancers did their part with their 2-3 zone defense that Leuzinger was unable to penetrate at times. They also did a good job shutting them down on the perimeter as the Olympians shot 3-for-19 from the three-point line.
On offense, they attacked the post with junior forward Alex Tiffin, who finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks.
Evans and Julian Wheeler led the Olympians with 12 points and Delon Wright chipped with 11. Wright was also the team’s defensive standout with six steals.
“It hurts,” Wright said, “We worked hard all year and I thought we could pull it out.”
The Olympians now have to wait and see where they are placed in the Division II bracket of the state regional tournament that starts Monday. But for Morris, who came to the program in 2002, reaching the final was still a reason to be proud.
“To take a school with very little tradition and legacy and in seven years get to this point, we’re very proud of what we have done,” Morris said.